Hotel Review: The Grand Hotel & Spa, York in Yorkshire
The name is truly the best introduction for this five star hotel – grand is just what it is and luxury is what I experienced. From the spa to the food and the décor to the room, The Grand, York’s only five star hotel is made great by what it offers and the staff who run it.
Housed in the former headquarters of the North Eastern Railway Company, the Edwardian red brick building built in 1906 holds 107 rooms, a spa in the vaults, which once held the former company’s millions, and a 3AA Rosette awarded restaurant.
When we were shown to our room we were offered a hot drink, which we gratefully accepted, I felt that it was a nice way to welcome us for our stay. Our room was modern, smart and spacious with walnut effect furniture and a separate toilet near the door. The main bathroom was accessible by a folding door and had the luxury of heated flooring, Molton Brown toiletries and a heated mirror. After a shower I slipped into my luxuriously soft robe and slippers and listened to music in the bathroom via speakers connected to the huge TV in the lounge. The room lacked a certain element of character but had splashes of teal in the cushions and curtains, functioned well and had all the extras I needed.
Public rooms in the hotel include a whiskey lounge, which holds 110 bottlings from Scotland, India, Wales, Japan and America, aged form 10 to 52 years. We aren’t whiskey fans so nick and I took ourselves to The Grand Bar before dinner, which serves food from a bar menu, afternoon tea and a large selection of cocktails. I couldn’t resist ‘The Grand G and T sling,’ which was made up of grapefruit infused gin, apricot brandy and Fever Tree lemon tonic and was floral, soft and very tasty! Dark walls and velvet fabrics make the room and sumptuous place to hang out. Low armchairs and sofas in violet, deep blue, olive green and dark beige fill the floor space, while lampshades in all sizes soften the lighting. The mood is accentuated by instrumental music filtrating through and there’s a wide range of drinks to indulge in.
As mentioned the spa sits below ground in the old vaults. A 14 metre pool joins a Nordic dry sauna, herbal steam room and a spa whirlpool and a gym and treatment rooms using ESPA products are on the same level. We enjoyed full use of the pool facilities, which was decorated with statues and images of ancient gods and goddesses. Treatments include manicures, pedicures, facials, body wraps and massage.
Run by head chef, Craig Atchinson, Hudson’s, serves up British cuisine using classic flavours and modern cooking styles. Local and seasonal ingredients are rife and the food is presented in stunning ways with interesting elements found on all dishes. My guest, Nick, and I were mesmerised by the tasting menu, which was creative and left us very satisfied indeed!
After a canapé of squid ink cracker with apple and dill, we sampled a ‘cryogenic mojito,’ which arrived in a wooden box. A mortar holding brown sugar, meringue and mint leaves sat in the box alongside a bowl of lemon sorbet. Dry ice was poured over the mortar at the table then I had to use my pestle to grind the frozen elements and pour my sorbet on top. It was an inspired dish – it was fun, full of flavour and inventive in its execution.
Some wonderfully flavoured breads and butters followed (Sourdough and a rosemary focaccia and a sun-dried tomato and beef flavoured butters) then we could move on to our ‘Autumn vegetables’ course. Goat’s crabley, preserved roots and woodland mushrooms were presented on a log and were brimming with rich, autumnal flavours. It was colourful and delicious with smooth, crispy and crunchy textures. We opted for a couple of glasses of wine to match instead of the full wine flight and were recommended a Riesling for the earlier courses (Biecher & Schaal) and a rich Rioja for the later dishes (Vina Pomal Reserva Centenario). Both choices were spot on.
Next up was a sirloin of ‘English milk fed veal with salt baked and fermented turnips, alium sauce and ramson caper. This had gentle flavours and was great with the wine. The following course, North Atlantic stone bass with fennel, coastal herbs, buckwheat and a shellfish bisque was a ten out of ten. It was so flavoursome; the fish was beautiful and chunky with a super crispy skin and was accentuated so well with the sweet bisque.
Course four was a helping of 28 day salt aged beef sirloin, BBQ cheek, fermented barley, onion in Wagyu fat, parsley and beef tea. This smelled divine, tantalising my taste buds! The sweet and salty flavours married with rich and dark well, the meat was lovely and the cheek was the best bit. It went cold quite quickly so I think the tea could have been hotter but other than that it was delicious.
Meadowsweet ice cream with toasted chestnut, cranberry and oxalis followed and bridged the gap between savoury and sweet. The final course was strawberry and elderflower consisting of elderflower set cream, strawberry juice, foraged herbs and flowers. This was visually stunning and had lots of creative elements and little textures that came together very well.
The restaurant itself was smart and classically decorated with wood panelling on the lower half of the walls, a brown and cream carpet, high backed brown chairs, metallic curtains, large cream lampshades and a fireplace holding a large, gold framed mirror. Tall windows and low key abstract art sitting on the walls finished the intimate room.
Breakfast was served in a larger dining room, which had lighter walls and was more open. Images of food in one colour sat in cream frames on one wall, while black and white abstract images in wood frames hung on other walls. The large windows offered a view to the city walls across the street. Breakfast was a huge selection of hot and cold buffet items as well as offerings from the kitchen including Whitby kippers, pancakes and a full and vegetarian Yorkshire breakfast. I gorged on bread, smoked cheese and Brie, a croissant, chocolate ring doughnut (yes, that’s right!) and Eggs Florentine, and I’m not ashamed, it was delicious!
The Grand hosts many events such as wine dinners, whiskey tasting, a race day brunch, DIY cocktail kitchen, murder mystery events and plenty of seasonal festive celebrations. The hotel is situated close to the train station and next to the ancient city walls, which run for two miles around the city, holding the title of the longest medieval walls in England. A walk of the full circuit of the walls takes two hours and it is free of charge. Other city highlights to take in include the family friendly National Railway Museum and Jorvic Viking Centre (reopening in spring 2017), the queue-worthy Betty’s Cafe Tea rooms, York Minster, many exciting and spooky ghost tours of the city and the popular annual light festival, Illuminating York.
CrossCountry provided a faultless journey for us. First Class is certainly the recommended carriage for a long journey; endless drinks, a hot food menu and cold snacks are served to you at your seat on weekdays and the carriage is spacious, being three seats wide, with large reclining seats. Our long journey home from York to Devon was comfortable, peaceful and bang on time, aided by plenty of tea and coffee!
IN A NUTSHELL
York is a place that I would visit over and over again – there is so much to do that I could certainly do with multiple trips! The Grand Hotel and Spa is a large, welcoming place that offers such a luxurious and elegant stay, just don’t miss out on dinner at Hudson’s, the menu was superb!
Address: Station Rise, York YO1 6GD
Phone: 01904 380038